“Erik and the entire team at METIS should be commended for their efforts in finding us a buyer who will continue our farming and winemaking philosophy at Johan. Organic and Biodynamic farming is not easy and takes a deep commitment. METIS stuck with us as we explored several possible transactions with multiple different buyers before finding the right party. They discretely navigated the process, allowing us to continue to focus on our operations while exploring a sale on our behalf. We are thrilled that the new owner will keep Johan Vineyards as a biodynamic farm and winery. I have no reservations recommending METIS to anyone in the wine industry who is exploring a sale. They earned our trust, handling everything with professionalism, but also with a personal touch. They knew what was important to us and worked tirelessly to achieve an outcome that we are thrilled with.”
Dag Sundby, Owner and Founder of Johan Vineyards
Johan Vineyards is an expansive 175 acre site, operated as a holistic farm. 88 acres of certified Organic and Biodynamic vineyard are complimented by organic gardens, a growing animal husbandry program (chickens, ducks, and sheep), a beautiful pond, reserved native woodlands, along with a winery and tasting room. Founded in 2005 by Dag Sundby, a native of Norway, Johan Vineyards received both Organic and Biodynamic certification in 2010 spearheaded by then winegrower Daniel Rinke (now of Art+Science Cider & Wine). In addition to producing ultra-premium 100% estate grown Biodynamic wines, Johan Vineyards sells fruit to some of the top wineries in the Willamette Valley. While the focus of Johan has been on Pinot Noir, Johan has also earned a reputation for excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and produces varietals unique in the Willamette Valley, including Cabernet Franc, Melon de Bourgogne, Gruner Veltliner, and Blaufrakisch, among others. Johan was recently honored by Wine & Spirits Magazine as one of the Top 100 Wineries of 2021.
Dag Sundby, the owner and founder, decided after 17 vintages it was time to sell Johan Vineyards.
It was very important to Dag and his family to find a buyer that would continue to honor his philosophy of winegrowing and continue farming and operating Johan as an organic and biodynamic winery and vineyard. It was also important to Dag that Morgan Beck, the head Winemaker and General Manager of Johan, and the rest of the team remain involved after a transaction.
METIS needed to find a buyer who had the interest and expertise in biodynamic farming to build on Dag’s legacy and propel Johan forward as one of Oregon premiere sustainable winery operations.
METIS’ knowledge of parties interested in investing in Oregon wine operations proved invaluable, and they were able to develop a diverse pool of prospective buyers comprised of both regional and national strategic operators, financial entities, and entrepreneurs who would be interested to continue and build upon the founder’s vision.
But since Dag needed to continue to operate Johan as a business during the exploration of a sale, discretion and confidentiality were key to the process. To meet the imperative of discretion and confidentiality, this diverse but focused list of prospective buyers were approached individually and thoroughly vetted before offering an NDA and providing any materials. Only then, and after signing an NDA, were interested parties invited to visit Johan and learn about the acquisition opportunity.
There was a wide range of different buyer types who had interest in Johan Vineyards. The team at METIS spent considerable time with multiple buyers exploring a variety of different visions and building pro-formas for a variety of different business models for the property.
Ultimately, there were multiple offers to acquire Johan Vineyards. The prevailing buyer was the one whose vision for the future of the property most closely matched that of the founder. The team at METIS got to know Katherine “Mini” Banks when she and her investor group acquired Cowhorn Winery & Garden in April of 2021. Cowhorn is a 117 acre certified Biodynamic vineyard and winery in southern Oregon, producing Rhone Style wines made with 100% estate grown fruit. As a native of Santa Barbara, Banks literally grew up in the wine business; her family has formerly been investors in landmark California wineries. Mini’s approach to and vision for Cowhorn was so congruent with that at Johan that the fit seemed natural. The fact that Johan specializes in cool climate varietals while Cowhorn focuses on Rhone varietals made them particularly complimentary.
METIS discretely approached Banks about Johan under an NDA. It was clear to Banks after reviewing the thorough confidential marketing materials prepared by METIS that acquiring Johan would complement her recent acquisition of Cowhorn and bring together two of the country’s most notable Biodynamic Vineyards under a single ownership group.
After touring the property with the METIS team, Banks and her investment group immediately made an offer. METIS worked with the buyer and seller to negotiate a Letter of Intent that appropriately valued Johan’s past and future potential. Given that METIS had already done extensive due diligence on the property, the buyer was able to conduct a smooth and rapid diligence with minimal disruption to the ongoing operation, which was critical as it occurred simultaneous to the 2021 harvest season. METIS negotiated all aspects of the transaction and worked closely with the attorneys on both sides, ensuring a smooth and collaborative transaction that closed in less than six weeks.
Dag and his family are thrilled with the outcome and are confident that Mini Banks and her team will carry on the Johan legacy with a passionate commitment and holistic approach to farming and winemaking that is the foundation upon which the vineyard and winery were built.
From Mini Bank’s perspective, the acquisition also brings together some of the most exciting, up-and-coming female wine makers in Oregon: Johan’s current winemaker Morgan Beck and Cowhorn’s newly appointed Sarah Thompson. “Morgan and Sarah are both superstars…smart, diligent and each fully committed to their craft. It will be fun to see these two talented women working collaboratively to further enhance the winemaking at each site,” said Mini Banks.
All Johan winery team members will remain on staff and Johan will continue to operate as a biodynamic farm under Banks’ leadership.